Friday, July 27, 2007

"No Strings"-- Funding the Alumni Treasury

A previous discussion thread raised the issue of alumni communication and the use of College resources. Your elected Executive Committee responded to a denial by the College to support our communication to all alumni, as briefly explained here.

All members of the Executive Committee recently received a copy of the following letter, addressed to the Secretary-Treasurer of your Association.


Timothy A. Dreisbach
119 Morgan Road, South Royalton VT 05068

24 July 2007

Mr. David Spalding
Secretary-Treasurer, Dartmouth Association of Alumni
c/o Blunt Hall, Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH 03755

Dear David:

People have expressed concerns about third parties spending money to influence alumni without public disclosure of their activity. There should be similar concerns about the College using the power of the purse to control how the alumni’s elected representatives communicate with their members and represent those interests. Having the Association cover and openly report on its expenses, with financial support coming both from the College and from other individuals or groups, appears a proper balance between these two alternatives.

It is understandable that the College only spends its money as it wishes; that is its right. What upsets me is the Alumni Relations office not giving access to mail lists that would cost nothing additional, including email lists that were provided for use by the prior Executive Committee but are now denied. It is disconcerting to find that even changes to content on our Association web site, which you (wearing your other hat as Dartmouth VP Alumni Relations) once described to me as “maintained by the College as a convenience for the alumni” are also subject to review and veto by College staff.

Enclosed is a personal check in the amount of $xxx that I am donating to our Association. As you know, our alumni constitution requires that we members of the Executive Committee be responsible for “the general interests of the Association [being the alumni], including the raising and expending of money to meet current expenses”. I wish that this sum be deposited in a general account of the treasury, and used to cover Association expenses as determined by the Executive Committee. As we recently decided to communicate by a letter to our members, and the College refused to support that effort, I expect my donation will be applied to help cover the expenses of that mailing.

Further this donation will hopefully serve as an example for other alumni to donate as well. As you know, the Association has opened PO Box 525 in Hanover (03755) to receive feedback from that letter and correspondence in general; if checks made out to the Association are received there, they will be forwarded to you for deposit in our treasury. No longer shall the treasurer’s report be “there is nothing to report because we have no expenses and have no funds.”

As a committee member, I do not believe we should be declaring “financial independence” from the College, as their support to cover Association activities such as trustee and officer elections is necessary and of mutual benefit. But as we have seen, the College is unwilling to fund other efforts deemed by the Association leadership to have high priority. Accordingly, I suggest you consider partitioning our accounts, and the expenses being reported, into two categories… those of a “restricted nature” as contributed by the College, and those freely given for general use.

This donation may not be tax deductible, as we are today not incorporated as a tax-exempt organization. I would appreciate if you could advise as to the requirements of establishing such status. In the interim, I suppose others wishing to donate can do so without such regard as I have done, or will consider making donations to other exempt organizations with a stipulation that those in turn help reimburse our expenses; I believe we can accept such monies in good faith, so long as there are no “strings attached” that would in any way compromise the interests of our members. This should be true without regard as to whether it is the College or other parties who provide the funds.

Sincerely, for Dartmouth alumni and hence for Dartmouth,

Tim Dreisbach ‘71
Executive Committee Member

Enc: Personal Check


  • In accordance with your recent suggestion, I e-mailed my comments on the current ridiculous state of affairs to the Trustees Governance Committee this morning. Also in accordance with your suggestion, I provide below a copy of what I said so you can make sure that my remarks, and the many like them that will turn up, are not lost in the mists. Here's what I said:

    Frankly, I think the Board ought to be embarrassed at the bald nature of this power-grab. Is this an Ivy League college or a cosa nosrta family?

    I feel very, very strongly, for too many reasons to enumerate here, that the College is, and has been for years, on the wrong course. I am astounded at the management style and decisions of President Wright, which I would never have expected from a long-term, well respected professor. Dartmouth cannot be and should not try to be a major research university; if that's what you want for an education, go to Harvard or Yale. And the only way to turn around what appears to be an otherwise ineluctible march in the wrong direction is to elect trustees who will prevent it. That's the system we've had for 126 years and there is absolutely no reason to reexamine or change it now except that it is being used for its intended purpose.

    Back in my era, one of our mantras was "Mother Dartmouth loves her sons." Like hell she does.

    David E. Hunt '75

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/27/2007 11:48 AM  

  • It seems to be one thing to tell Dartmouth how we would like it to spend our gifts, giving it the unstated option to decline the money if it disagrees with our goal or finds the bookkeeping inconvenient.

    It seems something else to tell (not ask) Dartmouth to manage our money for us. Ordinary student organizations open their own checking accounts, and it would not be improper for Dartmouth to respond that the Association should do the same.

    It takes two to maintain the kind of relationship that we are asking for. If someone sent me a check and told me to put it on account for him, I would want to send it back and tell him that we might be close, but we are not that close. I would say this even if I planned to continue bankrolling him in the future.

    By Anonymous Walt Nernies, at 7/27/2007 5:34 PM  

  • Walt: I asked our treasurer to deposit alumni donations on behalf of the Association, tracking it separately from College contributions. It might be a convenience if this is done within the College structure, but it is by no means a necessity. I never "told" the College to do so. I wrote to David in his role as the treasurer representing we alumni, not wearing his College employee hat.

    Your suggestion as to a totally separate bank account has merit and should be considered.

    You might be surprised to hear that some student organizations have their own checking accounts, but that others have had theirs taken away. Ask the students of the Ledyard Canoe Club if they can give you a current and accurate summary of their account balances, containing their own monies raised through canoe rentals and kayaking lessons, since they are no longer permitted to maintain an independent checking account.

    By Blogger Tim Dreisbach '71, at 7/27/2007 5:50 PM  

  • PS To Walt: You asked a good question but neglected to note your class along with your name. Unfortunately you are not listed among Dartmouth alumni in the Dartmouth Blitz name directory. Any relation to the famous Hanover barber... you know, Walt N Ernie? At least Tom Paine has identified his real self, and made it clear he is not a dead pamphleteer.

    My thanks to a fellow EC member for pointing out the coincidence. Jeez... we seem to even have anons not content with being anonymous.

    By Blogger Tim Dreisbach '71, at 7/27/2007 8:33 PM  

  • Hi folks,

    Not sure I understand the issues here. I live in Fayetteville, NC, and was up for my 30th reunion in June. At an open house, the chair of my major department denied that Dartmouth is turning into a big research university, or that students criticize large classes, lack of access to faculty, or overuse of grad students to teach. Granted, that is one faculty member's view, but I mention this to illustrate the possibility that some of us who are far from the green may not be getting an accurate picture of what is going on. After all the mailings I received in the course of recent trustee elections, for example, I was more confused than enlightened.

    Therefore, what is this current dust up about? Where can I get a calm, cool, and collected appraisal, perhaps interlarded with a bit of context?

    Thanking in advance any who would enlighten me, I am Don Gaylord, '77

    By Anonymous Dr. Donald R. Gaylord, at 7/28/2007 10:45 AM  

  • Don: I reply to your inquiry as one of 68,000 alums, not wearing my alumni Association executive committee hat representing others.

    Dartmouth is NOT going to hell in a handbasket. It has some great students and the faculty is not too shabby. (I interact with them living close to campus.) At the same time, it seems to take missteps that could be avoided, and can certainly benefit from improvement. It is subject to substantial pressures to grow and move in the direction of larger research universitites, which is a danger unless explicitly guarded against. The evidence is not found in one single place, but in many small steps taken on a slippery slope.

    Petition trustee candidates have been vocal pointing out areas that can benefit from more attention, and they have been winning.

    The current "dustup" is not about the state of our College per se, but over the right and duty of alumni to participate in her stewardship. Some apparently fear the broad base of alumni are too ignorant to participate well, using the elections of the petitioners as their proof point. Others (including myself) believe we should have more faith in our fellow graduates.

    Again, the above are only my personal opinions. I will let others step in with their comments.

    Tim D.

    By Blogger Tim Dreisbach '71, at 7/28/2007 1:23 PM  

  • "The chair of my major department denied that Dartmouth is turning into a big research university."

    Perhaps true if one is a humanities major. A group of Hanover residents, resisting the construction of a large life sciences building adjacent to their homes, claims the building does not qualify for an educational construction waiver, as it will contain only 6 teaching laboratories but 30 separate labs for research teams. Perhaps important somewhere, but is it the right thing for Dartmouth?

    During your reunion, did you spend much time on the "north campus"?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/28/2007 2:35 PM  

  • Don,
    I wish Anonymous following Tim's answer had identified him/herself. Unlike most who withhold their names, the poster makes a telling point. There is no question but that the biological sciences are going full speed ahead in the direction of research university operation. Translation: becoming dependent on sucking the federal teat for grants. Is this necessarily bad, ipso facto. No, but it changes trhe natuire of Dartmouth and of the direction its evolution takes.

    Wright has emphasized that the new university (meaning Dartmouth) will have the production of new knowledge (his language, not mine) as its defining activity. That means research. In the sciences, that means the faculty will be judged by their ability to attract grants,and that in turn means that the curriculum is skewed to advance careers responsive to the grants industry, not to student needs.

    Are the humanities islands of refuge from this tsunami of federal graNTS? Not really. The humanities have evolved according to a scientific model--and have become less and less appealing to students. (Look at the plummeting portion of English majors. I had a conversation two weeks ago with a very bright student who told me she has aborted plans to be a literature major because she has very little interest in the theory-and gender-saturated courses that permeate the department.) I saw an ad Dartmouth placed last month for a head of the digital humanities department. I taught in an English department for 35 years, and I haven't a clue as to what that means.

    What the head of your major department could have meant by his denial, I truly don't know. Jim Wright also denied, to my face, that DArtmouth is embracing that model. Such denials are either highly disingenuous or reflections of profound ignorance.

    Your question is pertinent and of urgent importance. I have been trying to get Sean Plottner to let me write an article about the difference between a college (in theory) and a university for the DAM. But he has no interest in such things, and so he assumes alumni don't either. "Any article over 800 words exceeds the attention span of my readers," deponeth he. My response: Any College that produces graduates of such intellectual shallowness and incapacity doesn't deserve my support.

    I HAVE ARRANGED FOR A DISCUSSION OF THE COLLEGE V. UNIVERSITY ISSUE in October. I invited Harry Lewis, former dean of arts and sciences at Harvard to participate, and he has accepted. Do you believe this event will receive any coverage from the College?

    By Blogger Tom Paine, at 7/28/2007 3:23 PM  

  • Don, David, Frank Gado, et al.:

    The "no strings" post to which our comments are appended discusses one element of Association-College relations in the context of the current controversy about the election of alumni trustees.

    Other comments here seem to be a distraction from this discussion, however, and they might even undercut the position that the majority of the EC has taken.

    In other words, if the people trying to convince the board to maintain its election system instead offer general gripes about the direction of Dartmouth, accurate or not, they make themselves look less credible. They look like people who have adopted the alumni trustee question as the latest skirmish in a long period of disgruntlement, rather than like people who have a legitimate request.

    Tim: Is there a setting you can change on the blogger site that prohibits anonymous or pseudonymous comments? As long as this site encourages anonymity by giving people the option to use it, people will use it.

    By Anonymous Walt Nernies, at 7/29/2007 12:10 PM  

  • Walt: One of the challenges of discussion fora is keeping people "on topic" relative to the lead in subject. It is way too much work for a moderator to come in after-the-fact and cut&paste comments onto more appropriate threads.

    One solution is to have more discussions in parallel... all readers--please note that I have volunteered to post new discussion subjects sent to me, as described here.

    Another is to use better discussion software and our committee is exploring that. If the College would give us access to the email IDs of alumni, we could use them as a way of only allowing alumni to have access.

    There is a philosophic debate as to whether or not to allow anonymous posters, even if we do have the technology to prohibit them. For now, alumni will need to read the content and decide for themselves as to credibility.

    As to anonymity, Walt, you have not responded to my prior question as to whether your name is a pseudonym and you are yourself anonymous (apologies if appropriate.) Regardless, I am responding because you ask a qood question.

    Finally, yes, let us return this discusion thread to its original intent... What do people think about 1. the Administration not supporting the desire of the alumni association's elected official to communicate with their members, and 2. the need for the Association to fund things when the College wants to use its financial support to control actions and content.

    Comments on the trustee Governance Committee study and considerations of changing the Board composition should be posted on the Input Needed discussion thread.

    By Blogger Tim Dreisbach '71, at 7/29/2007 12:51 PM  

  • Cary Heckman has a good explanation of why the idea of an alumni right to elect trustees is a myth in the comments to a post at Super Dartmouth, a blog.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/31/2007 2:13 PM  

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